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Syntactic Errors in Written English of Students of English

Syntactic Errors in Written English of Students of English in Akwa Ibom State College of Education



The study investigated syntactic errors in written English of students of English in Akwa Ibom State College of Education. The total population was two thousand seven hundred and seventy-five (2775) students from senior secondary two in all the public secondary schools in Ikono Local Government Area. The sample size was 100 students from four secondary schools.

The study focused answering three questions to answer. The instrument used in gathering the needed data for the study was researcher’s made questionnaire called “Syntactic Errors in Written English of Students of English in Akwa Ibom State College of Education” (SEWESEAISCE). The study found out that there are lots of syntactic errors in English.


Syntactic Errors in Written English of Students of English




1.1       Background to the Study

The term “syntax” comes from the Greek language, meaning “arrange together.” The term is also used to mean the study of the syntactic properties of a language. In linguistics for instance, “syntax” refers to the rules that govern the ways in which words are combined to form phrases, clauses and sentences.

On the other hand, English language is used and studied as a second language in Nigeria. This implies that it is neither our mother tongue nor the first language of any of the over four hundred and fifty ethnic groups in Nigeria. According to Uzoezie (1992: Pp.102), the English language is indigenous to Britain and was first contact by Nigerians back to the coming of the British to the West African coast in the 18th century by traders.

The Europeans discovered that their main purpose of coming which was mainly for the commercial exploitation of the region was made a little difficult because of the absence of a language of communication with the natives. This was because they considered the indigenous languages as primitive and had no interest in learning any of them. Baldeh (1990) records that they taught the coastal middle men the type of English related to buying and selling. The language progressed with the Europeans coming as colonial masters and making Lagos a colony of Britain in 1862.

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English later assumed an important position in Nigeria as the official language and the language of wider communication. In the absence of a national language, English language was accepted as the language of government, education, commerce, mass media and above all, a language for international interaction and communication. Other aspects of the relevance of English such as the language for national development, educational advancement, social mobility, technological acquisition, etc, have also been highlighted by many writers.

The study of English becomes more important as its roles and relevance expand. In the language, efforts have been made to improve the students’ mastery of it, especially in the area of the basic language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Among these four skills, achieving the goal of effective writing competence seems to be far from being realised.

Evidence of this abounds in the type of errors committed by students in their written works. Truly, learners’ written aspects of English manifest with errors and also reflect in their level of incompetence. On this point, Ibileye (2007) in his research exposed some letters badly written by first year students of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, as he laments over the inadequate knowledge of the use of English by the students.

As offensive as the errors may be, what is more important and beneficial to the students is how these errors should be corrected and be avoided in future and how to get communicative ability of students enhanced. In the Nigerian school system, the English language is both a teaching subject and a language of instruction at the primary and post primary levels.

In the Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education, English language course is usually organised by the General Studies Unit. The course is mandatory for every student in all the Departments. One of the aims of this course, according to Ibileye(2007) is to impart the necessary language skills which the students need throughout the duration of their courses in school.

It is also the expectation of Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education in Nigerian society that graduates and under-graduates should be able to perform in the written and speaking aspects of English language with competence and even teach others.  With too many errors in their written works, it becomes imperative that something needs to be done to help solve the problem of poor English usage among students. The above situation prompts the researcher on investigating the Syntactic Errors in the Written English of the students of English in Akwa Ibom State College of Education to provide solution to the above mentioned problems.

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1.2       Statement of the Problem

It is obvious that majority of Nigerian students find their way into Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education, with poor background knowledge of English. Inherent in these students is the problem of poor expressions in the language.

For example, the suffixes, ‘s’ and ‘es’ according to Adebileje (1985) are generally used to show plurality in the English language, however, there are some exceptions to this rule as in the case of ‘man’ and ‘men’.

The speaker/user of English as a second language may not be aware of these exceptions thus, he/she may say or write ‘mans’ as the plural for ‘man’. This is evident in the incessant errors committed by Akwa Ibom State College of Education students of English in their written works.

It is also very disgusting and disheartening that these students cannot communicate in their writing and speaking aspect. The situation calls for attention because these are prospective teachers and future leaders who will come into society to put into service the knowledge they have gained from their lecturers.


Syntactic Errors in Written English of Students of English


1.3       Objectives of the Study

This study aims at investigating the Syntactic Errors in Written English of Students of English in Akwa Ibom State College of Education. Specifically, the study intends:

  1. to identify and systematically analyse the errors committed in writing by  students of English in Akwa Ibom State College of Education with a view of finding out those areas of difficulty that pose challenges in their written aspect.
  2. to classify the syntactic errors into various error types and critically explain the reasons that might have occasioned in writing by the students.
  3. to propose strategies for dealing with syntactic errors in contributing to the development of Standard English among Nigerian students and help to attain a better proficiency in their writings.
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1.4       Significance of the Study

This study is important because its findings will provide solution to the phenomenon of errors committed by this category of students in Nigeria and provide a feedback to the students in their language performance.

Awareness of these errors will eventually empower them in making serious efforts to learn the correct usage. Students will also use the findings and recommendations from this study to eradicate the causes of syntactic errors in their writing and speaking aspect.

It is strongly expected that the students, the lecturers, the curriculum designers and the textbook writers will benefit immensely from the findings and recommendations of this work as to enhance the English expressions of students.


Syntactic Errors in Written English of Students of English


1.5       Scope and Limitation of the Study

The study is limited to Syntactic Errors in Written English of Students of English in Akwa Ibom State College of Education. An assessment of its use in various forms will be carried out. This research is therefore limited to College of Education, Afaha Nsit, Akwa Ibom State even though the findings might be generalized.

This research is limited to the challenges encountered while conducting the research which include; lack of sufficient funds, short duration for the completion of the research and difficulties in accessing useful material for providing reliable information on the research work.

1.6       Research Questions  

The following research questions guided the study.

  1. what are the problems of Syntactic Errors in Written English among Students of English  in Akwa Ibom State College of Education?
  2. What are the possible causes of Syntactic Errors in Written English Grammar among Students of English from their teacher’s perspective?
  3. What can be done to reduce or stamp out the Syntactic Errors in the speaking and learning of English Grammar among Students of English?

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